Leeks with olives are a traditional Romanian dish during Lent, and very easy to prepare. We tend to think of leeks as a friendly relative of the robust onion, hence you will find them in Romanian dishes where a mellower, sweeter taste is required.
Lent is a religious tradition that is kept by many Romanians for different reasons such as penitence for sins, symbolic gesture to give up something that we love as Jesus gave up his life for Christians, and dietary reasons, since Lent always comes after periods of feast and a lot of food. Other people do it to support their friends in this challenge.
During Lent, you can just give-up meat, or something that you love eating or drinking such as chocolate or wine. You can be vegan or pescatarian. There are many options for people. It’s not very strict.
Whatever the reason, as Greek Orthodox Christians, we take Lent very seriously, people plan meals for it, share Lent food at work at lunchtime, the restaurants cater for Lent. It brings people together.
Initially, the leeks were abundant in Egypt, and I can only assume that they came into our cuisines via the Mediterranean routes. Hence, you will find variations of this dish in both Turkey and Greece, of course with the addition of Feta cheese.
This is how you make my dish:
250g Kalamata olives
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tube of tomato paste
2 tbsp of tapenade
100ml white wine
Make the sauce: put the tinned tomatoes in a pan and bring to simmer. Add the tomato paste and the olives, and reduce to half.
Prepare the leeks: put the wine in a pan and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so that the wine just simmers. Add the leeks cut in chunks of 8cm. Simmer for about 3 minutes, until the leeks are just tender, but not soft.
Transfer the leeks and the wine to the tomato sauce pan and heat gently for another 2 minutes. Swirl in the tapenade. Serve immediately.